More evidence of gut bacteria’s involvement in obesity and insulin resistance

I’ve written before about how weight management might be a lot more about what is happening in your gut than whatever diet of the month you are trying.  This is one reason why bariatric surgery may be the most effective long-term weight loss solution available; it changes and restores the makeup of gut microbiota.

New research released at the end of 2018 is taking this understanding of microbiota even further, finding strong ties with a specific bacteria called Akkermansia muciniphila not only to obesity but also increased insulin resistance and other effects of aging when looking at how specific types of gut bacteria change over time.

gut microbiota
Our guts are filled with many different types of bacteria that aid digestion and health.  Akkermansia muciniphila has been found to have a role in obesity, insulin resistance, and the guts immune system.

An Orlando Sentinel article examining the research breaks down the results into easy to understand benefits.

…Insulin resistance is also linked to a rogue’s gallery of ills, from obesity and inflammation to the sagging immunity and frailty that comes with advancing age. If a readily available means of slowing or reversing insulin resistance could be identified, it might have broad and powerful anti-aging effects (in addition to protecting some of the world’s 650 million adults who are obese against developing type 2 diabetes).

The research looked at this microbiota in mice and primates among young and older populations, finding that older populations had a significantly reduced amount of A. muciniphila and other related byproducts.  This led to a series of steps that ultimately increased insulin resistance.

Key to that final step was the accumulation in the gut of a specific kind of immune cell called 4BL cells. If the detrimental chain of events was to be disrupted, the accumulation of those 4BL cells probably had to be stopped, the researchers surmised.

They then ran two tests.  In the first, they gave the subjects butyrate (a byproduct of healthy A. muciniphila), and observed that the levels of A. mucinphila increased and insulin resistance lowered to levels seen in the younger population.

In the second, they gave the older populations an antibiotic that targeted the 4BL cells specifically.  When those cells were eliminated, A. muciniphila levels and insulin resistance normalized.

The results suggest “that the insulin resistance and other pathologies associated with aging and even frailty can be ameliorated by targeting” the cascade of events that flow from the depletion of Akkermansia muciniphila, the study authors wrote.

Early studies on how this could be applied to humans are already underway.  Maybe someday we’ll be taking Akkermansia muciniphila supplements to live longer and healthier lives.

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